Belonging and Friendship: Pinky and Rex

By connecting with the characters from the easily relatable series Pinky and Rex, students learn that it's okay to be different and consider what it means to be a good friend.



Unit 3

2nd Grade

Unit Summary

In this unit, students grapple with common 2nd-grade topics through reading the easily relatable series Pinky and Rex. Through connecting with Pinky and Rex, students will learn that it is okay to be different and to be proud of who they are, no matter what others may think. Students will also learn about what it truly means to be a good friend and how friends can support and stick up for one another in a variety of ways. They will also see that it is okay for boys and girls to be friends, even best friends. This unit builds onto multiple units from 1st Grade ELA in which students learned what it means to be a good friend and a good person. It is our hope that this unit deepens the understandings developed in previous grades by giving students characters to connect with. These connections are especially important for students who are struggling with some of the same issues and are not sure how to process or talk about them.

This unit is a transition from units that were predominately read aloud to a unit that is almost entirely shared or independent reading. Pinky and Rex are perfect texts for second graders, not only because of the important themes they teach, but because of how James Howe develops character and plot throughout this unit. Students will be challenged to notice the descriptive details James Howe includes to show how characters feel in response to different problems and challenges. They will also be challenged to notice how a character’s dialogue shows what they are truly feeling and how the different “said” words James Howe includes deepens that understanding. 

Students will also begin to analyze why certain words in a text are written in italics and what that shows about how a character is feeling. This deep dive into character will allow students to truly understand the characters and the lessons that they are learning. By reading four books in the series, students will also have the chance to see how characters develop over the course of multiple texts. When discussing the text with partners, in small groups, or as a whole group, students will continue to work on engaging with the thinking of others. Students will continue to focus on building on others’ talk in conversations, with an emphasis on asking for clarification and further explanation if needed.

Students will continue to build their writing fluency by writing daily in response to the Target Task question using a combination of simple and complex sentences. Students will learn how to use different conjunctions when crafting answers, pushing them to think critically and deeply about the content. Additionally,  students continue to develop their opinion and narrative writing skills. Students use what they know about Pinky and Rex to write the first chapter of an imaginary Pinky and Rex series, focusing on using details and precise words to describe a character’s actions, thoughts, and feelings. When writing opinion pieces, students learn how to craft strong paragraphs that include topic sentences, opinions, and a conclusion.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials


These assessments accompany this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

Unit Launch

Before you teach this unit, unpack the texts, themes, and core standards through our guided intellectual preparation process. Each Unit Launch includes a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning to ensure you're prepared to support every student.

Essential Questions

  • What does it mean to be best friends?
  • Why is it important to stand up for yourself and what you believe?

Reading Focus Areas

  • To understand what happens and why it happens in a story, readers notice the relationships between characters.

  • Descriptive language, dialogue tags and italicized words deepen a reader’s understanding of how a character is feeling.

  • A deep understanding of characters helps the reader determine the central message.

Writing Focus Areas

Narrative Writing

  • Use details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings.

  • Use precise adverbs to show details about a character's thinking or feeling.

Opinion Writing

  • Brainstorm using a Single Paragraph Outline.

  • Differentiate topic sentences from supporting sentences.

  • Use linking words to connect opinion and reasons.

  • Write a strong concluding statement.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

  • Build on others' talk in conversations by linking their comments to the remarks of others.

  • Ask for clarification and further explanation as needed about topics and texts under discussion.



"stormed away" annoying apologize beamed chattered declared dreading forgive glared grump groaned helplessly insisted mocking mumbled muttered screeching scowled self-conscious sighed smirking snickered sulk urged


-ly self-



To see all the vocabulary for Unit 3, view our 2nd Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Supporting All Students

In order to ensure that all students are able to access the texts and tasks in this unit, it is incredibly important to intellectually prepare to teach the unit prior to launching the unit. Use the intellectual preparation protocol and the Unit Launch to determine which support students will need. To learn more, visit the Supporting all Students teacher tool.

Content Knowledge and Connections

  • Pinky and Rex is a chapter book series. Books in a series often build on each other. We learn more about the characters and their feelings, motivations, traits, and relationships in each book. They might change or develop as you read more books in a series.
  • Having a best friend helps you face life’s challenges. Best friends support and help each other, no matter the situation. Sometimes best friends are similar, but they are often different from each other and that is okay. Best friends can get into arguments, but they always apologize and forgive each other.
  • It is important to stand up for yourself and what you believe because everyone is different. Being different is okay! When you stand up for yourself, you feel powerful and confident. And more importantly, you feel happy because you get to be yourself.

Lesson Map


Common Core Standards

Core Standards


Supporting Standards

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Unit 2

Exploring Habitats


Unit 4

Stories of Immigration

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